How Big Brands Rock Offline Marketing Strategies to Get Real with Customers

How Big Brands Rock Offline Marketing Strategies to Get Real with Customers

The advertising world is getting all shook up these days. In many cases, traditional media ad buys are projected to decline or flatline this year. Meanwhile, digital media advertising (dominated by Facebook and Google) is eating everyone else’s liquid lunch.

Yes, businesses need to bring their brands to the digital party or face inevitable disruption.

BUT that doesn’t mean you should cut your brand off from all the customer fun to be had and abandon your offline marketing efforts.

In fact, I would argue that it’s time to celebrate a re-birth of non-digital channel strategies that can either compliment your online marketing efforts or provide an intimate setting to build meaningful connections.

We may live in a digital world, but we’re still human and crave personal, real life experiences -- maybe more so now than ever. Even today, CoolData has found that “40% of online consumers make a purchase after being influenced by an offline channel.”

So, grab your martini glass, and let’s get this offline party started by looking at innovative ideas to build brand affinity and delight customers through memorable and shareable experiences.

1. Out of Home Marketing to Be Used in Your Home

Ikea inspiration boxes

Image via Leo Burnett

Most people consider “out-of-home” marketing to mean advertising on traditional billboards and subway posters or bus shelters. These channels are still relevant and help brands build awareness, but there’s so much more to it than that.

For example, Ikea recently took an original approach to this concept to help consumers envision how its furniture would look in their homes.

For years, the company has been providing Ikea branded moving boxes to Montreal, Canada residents during the month of July -- a mandated time when 225,000 renters can change leases/residences.

In  2015, Ikea took the concept a step further and printed moving boxes that were the exact size, look and shape of some of its most popular dressers and night stands. The boxes were then given away via a freestanding outdoor display in a downtown location.

The result? Customers were able to fill and place the boxes inside their new space and be inspired by how the product would fit in with their overall decor. The campaign drove a 16% increase in store visits and a 6% lift in year-over-year sales.

What a brilliant idea with a very practical application! Check out a full video overview of the campaign here.

Applying This Concept for Your Brand

The first ingenious thing about what IKEA has done in this campaign is provide genuine value in a place and time when they know people will need it. The second brilliant aspect, obviously, is that the boxes look like the product.

If you look at where your orders come from, are there any geographic trends? Maybe you receive a higher volume of orders from specific neighborhoods in Manhattan, for example?

If so, you should do as much research as you can to find out the little quirks that come from being in that area. Chambers of commerce, local newspapers, and community events calendars (sometimes found on the city’s website) can all provide insight into how you can participate in a creative way. Attracting local markets is all about understanding the local language, and in Ikea’s case “Man, I hate buying moving boxes” is something the residents of Quebec are saying leading up to July 1. Maybe there’s a similar utility-based marketing opportunity hidden within your own customer database?

2. Guerrilla Marketing That’ll Make You Drool & Feel Good About It 
How Big Brands Rock Offline Marketing Strategies To Get Real With Customers

Image via NBC News

If executed well, Guerrilla marketing can not only raise awareness of your product, but it can get people talking about and sharing their experiences on social media.

Last year, Burger King made a bold, brave move by publicly offering a truce with McDonald’s to support a non-profit called Peace One Day. BK invited the competing fast food chain to join forces to create the ultimate burger -- the McWhopper. All of the proceeds would go to the charity.

How did they launch the campaign?

Burger King took out a print ad in the New York Times that promoted an open letter to the CEO of McDonald’s, asking for his cooperation in a joint effort to sell the co-branded mega burger. The company also bought billboards next to McDonald’s restaurants with images that showed a hand extending an olive branch to its competitor.

Although McDonald’s said no to the opportunity, fans of the campaign took matters into their own hands and followed the instructions provided in an online video that Burger King produced to help them create and share pics and videos of themselves eating a McWhopper.

The campaign generated a whopping (burger pun intended) 8.9 billion media impressions and $138M worth of earned media. What a deliciously satisfying result for Burger King! I bet McD’s wishes they had participated now.

Applying This Concept for Your Brand

What’s interesting about this campaign is Burger King’s focus and their approach to local marketing. The billboard purchases around McDonalds locations along with the New York Times article were a well-coordinated, unexpected and concentrated burst.

McDonald’s said “no,” because they were caught off guard, and arguably, that tipped the scales in Burger King’s favor when it came to earned media.

Do you have a competitor with whom you could publicly catch off guard in a big way?

Can you tactically take advantage of their physical locations in a way that gets people talking about you instead of them? And can you, even temporarily put them in a no-win situation where, they don’t look smart for thinking of something, or look like the “bad guy” for not engaging with you?

3. Brag-Worthy Ecommerce Packaging

Picture it: Your customer is super stoked to get their first purchase from your ecommerce store -- delivered straight to their doorstep. The day it arrives, they tear open the cardboard delivery box and not only is there a handwritten thank you note inside but it comes with the most beautiful packaging they’ve ever seen.

In addition, there’s a coupon for them to get a 25% discount with their next online purchase with your store. Or maybe you’ve included a free gift that is redeemable online, or insert your other online traffic-driving idea here!

A recent Dotcom Distribution Packaging Report found that “60% of respondents said they would be more likely to share a product image on social media if it came in a gift-like box rather than in a traditional brown box.” In turn, this influences their friends and social media contacts’ likelihood to buy from your brand in the future.


Because the environment is also on many consumers’ minds right now, using recycled materials that are also space-efficient and aren’t wasteful will make customers feel good about buying more frequently from your store.

How Big Brands Rock Offline Marketing Strategies To Get Real With Customers

Image via Packaging Digest

Finally, if your customers’ first purchase of your product is on Amazon, or another marketplace, consider custom packaging, and inserts, that promote the URL for your online store -- so that they buy directly from you next time.

A Risk-Taking PR Stunt That Lands Employees on Their Feet

It’s no secret that Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year for retailers -- both online and offline. So, just imagine the cojones a company needs to have to shut down operations on that day to promote its key brand attributes and pull off a very risky PR stunt.

Luckily for outdoor retailer REI, its strategy to give employees the day off (and not process any sales in-store or online) to enjoy the great outdoors paid off in spades. 

The company generated 2.7 billion media impressions via both traditional and social media mentions by promoting the hashtag #OptOutside using online and offline channels.

Applying This Concept for Your Brand

Of course, you may not be able to afford to do something similar on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. But how could you take this concept and spin it to promote your brand?

If you sell footwear, maybe you can give away shoes to all of your employees’ children for back to school season, plus give them the first day of school off to walk their kids there and pick them up afterwards while sharing their pics and stories online?

Learn more: Strategies to conquer online to offline retail's trillion dollar opportunity

5. A House Party Pop-Up Shop

Last year, Gartner predicted that 89% of companies planned to compete on customer experience this year. So, how are brands creating unique customer experiences that generate positive buzz?

Canadian cultural icon and quick serve restaurant Tim Horton’s recently set-up a local neighborhood pop-up shop in a residential home in Calgary, Alberta. Employees then invited all of the people who lived nearby to stop in for coffee and a donut and make themselves at home during a campaign called “Tim’s Next Door.”

The goal was to generate positive PR and word of mouth about how the brand is still a friendly part of your local community.

Without spending any money on media to get people to the pop-up shop, and by encouraging people to share their experience on social media with the hashtag #TimsNextDoor, the brand generated “78 million earned media impressions and 12 million earned social media impressions that spanned across Canada -- all from 500 actual visitors to the pop-up.”

Check out more details here.

Applying This Concept for Your Brand

The possibilities for applying a similar strategy are endless -- especially if you are a lifestyle brand.

For example, if you sell furniture, you could also target local customers by staging an empty house from inside out and then inviting the neighborhood over for a barbeque -- maybe even partner with a major food manufacturer. What about getting a local celebrity/spokesperson to show them around the house or flip burgers to attract foot traffic?

The key is to surprise and inspire customers so much that they want to show-off online and tell all their friends.

Final Thoughts

Although it’s closing time on this blog post, I hope you’ll plan an after party with your team to discuss potential ideas to use offline tactics to drive online awareness and sales.

Remember that you can elevate offline media platforms and distribution channels by adding an experiential twist and inspiring people to share their delight with friends and family.

About the author

Andrea Wahbe

Andrea Wahbe is a freelance B2B marketing strategist and corporate storyteller who writes about Canadian SMEs, marketing, and digital media trends.

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